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How Childhood Trauma and Contrast Avoidance Influence Anxiety

general anxiety disorder

The contrast avoidance model suggests that people with Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) tend to worry as a way to avoid feeling even worse. They unintentionally keep themselves in a negative emotional state of worrying to prevent the discomfort of transitioning from a positive or neutral mood to a negative one. That is, rather than shift from contrasting emotions (bad to good), they remain in the bad mood to maintain normalcy at all times. It all happens to them unconsciously.

A recent study conducted in Iran involving 457 participants with GAD revealed some interesting findings. It turns out that childhood traumas, problems in relationships with others, and contrast avoidance are all linked to GAD symptoms.

Specifically, two things stood out. First, interpersonal problems and the habit of avoiding emotional shifts by worrying can directly predict GAD symptoms. Second, childhood trauma indirectly affected GAD symptoms by negatively impacting the relationship between interpersonal problems and worry avoidance.

This study highlights how traumatic childhood experiences can negatively affect people’s interpersonal relationships as they grow. And when confronted with unpleasant situations that can trigger negative emotions, they tend to worry to maintain a negative emotion to prevent a sudden emotional shift.

Understanding these connections can help us find better ways to manage and improve our mental well-being.

The study was published on Psychological Trauma: Theory, Research, Practice, and Policy, 14(3)

Satu H. Woodland, PMHCNS-BC, APRN Satu H. Woodland, PMHCNS-BC, APRN Satu Woodland is owner and clinician of Hope Mental Health, an integrative mental health practice located at Bown Crossing in Boise, Idaho. She sees children, adolescents, and adults.  Ms. Woodland with her background in nursing, prefers a holistic and integrative approach to mental health care that addresses the mind and body together. While Ms. Woodland provides medication management services in all her patients, she believes in long-lasting solutions that include a number of psychotherapies, namely cognitive behavioral therapy, exposure and response prevention therapy, attention to lifestyle, evidenced based alternative psychiatric care and spirituality. If you’d like to gain control over your mental health issues, call Hope Mental Health at 208-918-0958, or use the online scheduling tool to set up an initial consultation.

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